The President's Address
by Randy Byers
On November 2nd, Seattle fans gathered at the home of Amy Thomson and Edd Vick for the monthly Vanguard party. It was a momentous evening, and not just because Apparatchik 69 was distributed and, thus, the Abi Frost/TAFF story broken to the common fan. No, it was also the night that my fannish career and seventeen years of (admittedly spotty) service to science fiction were finally rewarded beyond my wildest dreams -- although not, perhaps, beyond my most careful calculations.
In one of those acts of back-scratching, back-slapping, back-formation cronyism endemic to fandom, Lesley, Andy, carl, Victor and I voted me in as the first Past President of the Fringe Fan Writers of America. Jerry Kaufman, who was the only other member of the circle when we took the vote, attempted to abstain, but menacing gestures from the security apparatus (Andy and Victor) brought him into line and the vote into unanimity.
I should mention that my platform was the promise to vote for Lesley next time. The sole amendment to the constitution of the Fringe Fan Writers of America was that the election of the Past President would be held whenever the Vanguard party took place at Amy and Edd's house.
It brings tears to my eyes to look around the presidential dacha that was once my humble bedroom. (Is it only my imagination, or does the space heater now smell of coal?)
But there's no time to bask in the perquisites of my new office. Fandom is once again in an uproar. Fringe fan writers from around the globe are petitioning for an official proclamation of our position. Therefore, and having only at that same November Vanguard been enlightened as to the casus belli of Topic A, my first act as Past President is to issue the following pronouncement: What's all this, then?
Beyond that, it is all irony -- if not, indeed, tragedy.
In response to my article on ffwa, carl wrote, "I consider myself something like a fringe-fan, in almost direct proportion to the degree to which I consider sf important work." This comment planted the first seed of doubt as to my true nature.
While I was at LACon this year, I bought a copy of Warhoon 31 in the Fan Lounge. I bought it because it contained a manifesto by Vincent Omniaveritas called The New Science Fiction, and I am a fan of both Vincent Omniaveritas' manifestos and science fiction. It never crossed my mind that the zine was produced in the thick of the Topic A fandango and by one of the main actors therein. So, I was surprised, when I finally read the thing, to discover a heated discussion of the Main Topic and to discover, furthermore, that this Topic bled so easily into the topic I'd skirted around in my ffwa piece: the definition of fan.
Of particular interest was a letter from George Flynn that found an echo in carl's comment. George wrote, "After all, the original motivations of fandom were almost entirely related to SF, either in itself or as an inspiration to change the world." Like it or not, fannishness is more alien to that original impulse than conventions or even media fandom. Which of course has nothing to do with its value -- but surely it does have something to do with who is entitled to inherit the name fandom.
It took a while for this to sink in, and, in the meantime, Apparatchik had published my piece on ffwa and I had been elected Past President. Not long after, I awoke from a dream with a startling and vivid realization.
I am a fan.
I love science fiction. I've been reading SF for something like 25 years, and the stuff still thrills me. In the past year, I've read Greg Egan's Distress, William Gibson's Idoru, and Bruce Sterling's Holy Fire, and, yea and verily, I have been pleased. I have thought, This is the shit! While I'm more critical than when I was twelve (yeah, the end of Distress kind of blew and Gibson's caper plots are always flimsy and Sterling's novels aren't quite really novels), an ember of the old sense of wonder still glows fiercely in the ashes.
I am a fan, not a fringe fan.
So, I find myself in a potentially embarrassing position: the Past President of an organization that I founded but may not truly represent.
This will not do. I do not wish to step down. I enjoy my new power to proclaim. In fact, I want more power.
I believe I can accomplish this with some semantic finagling. Let us define fan as someone who started out as a fan of SF, then got involved in fanzine fandom and slowly shifted allegiance and attention from SF itself to fandom and to what is written by and about fans. Let us define fringe fan as someone on the margins of fans; that is, someone who enjoys the social environs of fandom but whose primary reason for involvement in fandom is still an interest in SF itself. Fringe fans, so defined, must be seen as the larger group, and so my constituency has swollen and my mandate solidified.
Science fiction will survive Abi Frost and other TAFF disasters (although whether it will survive the Thor Power Tools decision is another question). The view from up here is looking better and better.
Sorry, Lesley, but I'm thinking four-year term. Hell, I'm thinking dictator for life.
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